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Navigating the Pressurized Vet Market

Wayne Hockley |
February 23, 2022 |

Under pressure

Without wanting to sound alarmist, it needs to be stated that the large animal veterinary industry in Canada is being buffeted a number of trends that are putting considerable pressure on your practice. These trends include:

  • Changing government regulations;
  • An industry growth rate of 9% through 2024;
  • The retirement of a growing number of large animal vets;
  • Entry into small animal specialties by a high percentage of graduating vets;
  • The growing need for expensive diagnostic equipment; and
  • Increasingly excessive demand for the services of large animal vets in rural areas.

Charting a course

These pressures are forcing large animal veterinary practices to chart a course leading to a “fork in the road”.  One fork ushers in an even more burdensome work load; the other requires vets to work smarter.  Though this may sound cliche, when any industry faces ongoing and growing pressures such as those generated by the trends above, industry leaders must address the following question:

 “Do we proactively manage these forces, or do we reactively allow them to reorient us?” 

Rarely are industry leaders in a position to answer this question definitively. Though they would love to be able to say that they can proactively deal with the forces they face, reality dictates that a compromise is in order—that between the two extremes there is a spectrum of realistic choices.  This blog is intended to help you find your middle ground and manage what you can manage.  

Addressing segments of the spectrum

There are three segments of the spectrum that need to be addressed:  

  1. How to manage your way through changing regulations;
  2. How to strategically invest for higher efficiency and service levels for your vets; and
  3. How to quantify the business trends facing your business and using that data to chart a course based on your strengths.  

Today we address 1) above by asking questions to stimulate your thinking and sharing insights into how you can better manage the challenges you face. 

  • “I don’t know, what I don’t know” … but someone does. 
  • It’s so easy for company owners to divert their attention away from external pressures while you are grappling with relentless demands on yourself and your resources.
  • Devote some of the time in your schedule to participating in industry groups, reading industry research papers and talking with others/mentors in the industry whom you trust.  It is more important than ever to invest time and energy into these partnerships and thought-leader forums. 
  • We all know that additional regulation requires additional documentation and overhead to run the business—and that this is like a slow leak. It doesn’t show up on the bottom line in one big wave; rather, it erodes your business throughout like ripples on a pond.
  • Is working harder the right path or is segmenting your services a better approach?
  • Is working in a collaborative environment with specialists in areas outside of your core expertise a smarter way forward?
  • Are your current business systems helping you see this clearly? 
  • Are your business workflows conducive to handling new regulations so that your organization is efficient and streamlined? 
  • How are others handling these changes?
  • What tools are available? 
  • Most businesses don’t “manage” ongoing changes at a workflow level as they grow and change in response to regulatory changes.  The result, therefore, is a disconnected, exceptions-oriented system of business flow requiring additional manpower. 

When was the last time your business examined itself at this level? What tools are available now that weren’t previously available to build a business rules-driven workflow that is not solely dependent on people/undocumented steps or hidden in a spreadsheet?  

We’ve raised a lot of questions, but are there one or two ideas here that you can build into your schedule? 

As you assess your business needs, do you have the people in-house to assist you with these decisions, or would someone from the outside bring a fresh perspective?  

The next blog

In the next blog we will look at 2) above: How to strategically invest so that your veterinarians are both happier and optimizing their time.  

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